Malvern Spring 2016

Every year the Show Gardens at Malvern Three Counties get better and better and this year was no exception, with five out of the twelve being awarded well deserved Gold Medals.

Two of the biggest Gold medal gardens were opposite in style. The first of these two having a loose mix of the formal and natural with a relaxed languididy and the second being most definitely a representation of control and formality.

Vergette Ltd Garden Design Malvern Wedding Garden 2016
The Garden of Romance – Villagio Verde

Once again Villaggio Verde brought a little slice of the Med to Malvern with their Garden of Romance. The edged beds filled with roses and lavender, although formal in design, were soft enough to blend seamlessly into the informal shapes of the surrounding trees and shrubs.

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Reflections of Japan

Even if you weren’t in possession of a catalogue, which I wasn’t at 7.30 am, there is no denying where Peter Dowle and Richard Jasper found their inspiration. Perfectly executed and like the garden before making very effective use of the borrowed backdrop of the Malvern Hills. I may not have adequately captured in the picture one of the things I particularly liked here, however, look closely and there is a mix of both reflective and rippled water.

Vergette Ltd Garden Design Malvern 2016 UCARE
The UCARE Garden

Another garden making the most of reflective water was raising awareness for The Urology Cancer Research and Education charity or UCARE. Large pots of Tulipa ‘Caress’, which feature on the Charity’s logo, were used to good effect as focal points.

Vergette Ltd Garden Design Millefori Malvern 2016
Millefiori ‘A Garden of a Thousand Flowers’

Now I have to be honest, I didn’t take the time to count, but, I wold think this garden features significantly more than a thousand flowers. Inspired by a glass work stud found amongst the Staffordshire Hoard, the jewel like colours echoed the glass of the gazebo above.

Vergette Ltd Malvern 2016 Primrose
Time is a Healer Supporting Primrose Hospice

More jewel like colours again, this time in the garden designed as a space for bereavement counselling. I’m not a 100% convinced by the colour used in the central sculpture but it would certainly brighten up a grey day.

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The Sunken Retreat

More colour in the Sunken Retreat, and yes green is a colour often overlooked in a garden despite it being the the most prolific. The background colours of bronze and green being echoed amongst the blocks of planting. I wasn’t sure I felt that this was a retreat, it seemed to me a brilliant space for socialising and a great party space with the central fire pit.

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The Low Line

A different angle on formality was shown by The Low Line, one of the Three Festival Gardens, although a similar Bronze feel featured, this time with accents of blue and grey from the planting and composite decking.

Vergette Ltd Malvern 2016
Hidden Gems of Worcestershire

Blue grey again in the Hidden Gems of Worcester garden in the hard landscaping, which was a work of precision. It cannot be easy fitting a square peg, or in this case square cut Digby Stone Slate into concentric rings, as the GK Wilson Landscaping team managed. This was softened considerably by the surrounding planting.

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The Water Spout

The last, *but by no means least, in the trio of Festival Gardens was the beautifully executed Water Spout garden. A relaxed and naturalistic garden filled with colourful shrubs, perennials and bulbs and accompanied by the relaxing sound of water from the natural spring in the garden. *It was most certainly not least as it scooped the Best Festival garden Award.

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Gardening Amongst Ruins, an homage to Capability Brown

At first glance I wasn’t convinced by the Gardening Amongst Ruins garden, but I think once you overlook the plastic pots of the roses, which were still proudly on display and suspended your disbelief to remember that at any moment an 18th century gardener is coming to move the chickens to a new site before everything in the enclosure is trashed, then it works very well. Lots of detail in the planting and a skilfully achieved bucolic feel.

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The Woodcutters Garden

Nested amongst the trees and set apart from the rest of the garden I happened across the Woodcutters Garden. It made the most of its surroundings this was a representation of the home of Angus and Poppy Rowan, characters featuring in the novel ‘The Woodcutters Story’

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Macmillan Legacy Garden

The Macmillan Legacy Garden is another rustic garden in the round, just to show how sublime all aspects of this garden were the above photo is a view of the back of the garden. I’m afraid I failed to capture the truly exceptional qualities of this garden with my snaps.

You could spend a happy half hour or so looking at the intricacies of the planting and marvelling at the attention to detail shown here. This is 2016’s Best in Show and most deservedly it wouldn’t be out of place at Chelsea.

The forecast looks set to be sunny for the weekend of the show, so you may want to find a shady cloister to enjoy your ice-cream before it melts.

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Villaggio Verde – Garden of Romance



Looking at Malvern 2015

Perspectives of Malvern – The Photographer, Visitor and Exhibiter’s views and what I learnt from them all.

This year I went to Malvern Spring Show three times and each time I came away with a different impression, if you like a different perspective. Now I hadn’t planned on visiting in triplicate but have you ever noticed all the best parties occur in an impromptu fashion.

I’ve been involved in one way or another with the gardens at Malvern for quite a while now, whether its my own show piece or helping other designers with theirs. Malvern is a tricky show to build at mainly because of the weather. With the Hills channeling everything Mother Nature can muster in your general direction you can experience all the weather in one day. It’s not unusual to get frost, hail, torrential rain and sunstroke all in a day during build up, but worst perhaps can be the almost gale force winds that swirl around the show ground. This is bad enough for the designers and contractors but the poor cosseted plants find it most objectionable.

For the first time in a long time I wasn’t working on a garden this year which I found made me much more objective as a designer when looking at them. I didn’t know the back story to the build and had no idea of the trials and tribulations the designers and contractors had gone through to produce their gardens. In short I was just like any other visitor looking at their gardens.

Another first for me was looking at the gardens with a professional photographer, Jonathan Ward. Particularly daunting as I have a new camera with not a clue how to use the bloomin’ thing, and yes ladies and gents I did leave the lens cap on and wonder why I couldn’t get a shot at one point. I became much more aware of looking for the best angle or as Jonathan, like a patient parent pointed out, perhaps I should look for ‘The Shot’. It was pointed out which gardens made for the best picture and to be be aware of what was in the background.

I was particularly pleased with this shot as there was large blue lorry and a rather bright flag on the other side of the hedging which you can’t see in this pic.

I see no flags
I see no flags

The problem was I’d become so focused on hiding them I forgot to look at the composition of the picture. So no the wildlife friendly bench isn’t floating on the water feature.

I was slightly more successful at hiding the camera which loomed over this garden

With and without camera
With and without camera

I don’t think I shall be giving up the day job anytime soon, but it was fun.

The next day I met up with three lovely ladies with whom I’ve chatted on twitter. We took in the show gardens and the floral marquee and generally had a pretty good time.

I discovered Alison likes Lupins and also seemed particularly taken with the Violas on the Wildegoose Nursery stand – well they did get a Gold Medal.

Lovely Lupins
Lovely Lupins


Award winning Violas  not award winning photography I'm afraid
Award winning Violas
not award winning photography I’m afraid

and Helen liked the troughs of alpines.

Stone troughs
Stone troughs

but keenest of all was Kitty, who’s delight at the Ariculas made me take a more appreciative look at these tiny plants.

Aricula Heaven
Aricula Heaven

Pelargoniums also featured in our day both on the show ground and the floral marquee but most delightfully of all, in cake form courtesy of the rather fabulous Fibrex Nurseries.

Pelargonium Ardens
Pelargonium Ardens might have come home with me

We also tried eating oxe-eye daisies and pine shoots for the first and as for pine shoots possibly the last time. If I’m honest the pine was an experience, very astringent and a bit much on its own but it has made me think I may have more edible plants in the garden than I first realised. So thank you to Liz Knight of Forage Fine Foods and Marc Diancono of Otter Farm for enlightening me.

So onto day three, where it was Malvern from the other side so to speak, where I got to experience the show from the perspective of all those who have trade stands and exhibits in the floral marquee.

Firstly with Colin and Tina of Plant Supports UK. Now I’ve bought supports from them for myself and for clients in the past but never sold them.

Tina and Colin Supports UK

Also a couple of days before the show I saw a tweet from Sue Beesley of Bluebell Cottage Nurseries asking if anybody could help on her stand. I figured having been at the show for two days I may as well go for three and as Sue is delightful and a bloomin’ good grower helping sell her plants should be fun.

Again I learnt a lot, this time that as an exhibitor the ankle nipping trollies other visitors dislike are in fact the traders best friend, those people with trollies don’t need a plastic bag for their purchases, excellent news for the environment and the traders. I learnt that Tina is so cheerful it’s infectious, I’m not sure I’ve laughed so much in a long time. I also learnt how to use a card reader *sort of* and discovered that selling anything from solid steel supports to solidly grown plants is easy because they pretty much sell themselves.

But lastly and possibly most importantly I learnt never ever give a plant a pet name because as soon as you do you have to take it home.

May I introduce you to Shrek, he’s a little bit special and came from Bluebell Nurseries. Thank you Sue.

Euphorbia form Bluebell Cottage Nurseries
Euphorbia from Bluebell Cottage Nurseries

Malvern Spring Show 2013

The Show Gardens at Malvern Spring Show were recently described by a television presenter as a ‘mixed bag’. In a way I can see where the presenter was coming from but this is the very thing I love about Malvern, all the gardens on show are very different.

The standard of design and planting gets better and better each show, at this point I am not going to tell you how long I’ve been going to Malvern, but suffice to say enough to have witnessed the changes over the years.

So if you were looking for a little piece of the Mediterranean, a garden you could transpose and make your own, a wilder look where natives and cultivated plants grow together or a childhood memory made into horticultural reality then you were well catered for this year.


The Villaggio Verde garden ‘Reposer Vos Roues (Rest Your Wheels)’ was a slice of Southern France, you could see yourself stopping for a little glass of something in the rustic café with the scent of lavender in the air .

A Little Slice of The South of France
A Little Slice of The South of France
Take a seat with a little glass of something
Take a seat with a little glass of something
The scent of lavender and the buzzing of bees
The scent of lavender and the buzzing of bees



‘Solar Chic’, ‘A Woodland Kitchen Garden’, ‘Return to the Med’, ‘The Haven’ and ‘Light is the Load’ all had elements that could be transposed in whole, or in part, to most gardens.


I loved the use of the parasol Photinia in the ‘Solar Chic’ garden.

Beautiful Photinia Parasols
Beautiful Photinia Parasols



‘A Woodland Garden’ had a vegetable patch which I can only dream of, as an army of slugs is once again on the march in my own garden!

Kitchen Garden in the Woods
Kitchen Garden in the Woods


Given the long, grey, and positively grim winter we have all endured it was the colourful planting which lifted the spirits in ‘Return to the Med’, ‘Light is the Load’ and ‘Single Track Mind’


Colourful Planting and Pebbled Paving in 'Return to the Med'
Colourful Planting and Pebbled Paving in ‘Return to the Med’
Planting contrasting beautifully with the bold structures in 'Light is the Load'
Planting contrasting beautifully with the bold structures in ‘Light is the Load’
Vibrant planting in 'Single Track Mind'
Vibrant planting in ‘Single Track Mind’


In ‘Boathouse No.9’ I liked the mix of native and cultivated flora and the attention to detail, which is a trademark of Show Gardens by this Designer

Signature planting from Mark Eveleigh in Boathouse No 9
Signature planting from Mark Eveleigh in Boathouse No 9
Attention to detail even at the back of Boathouse No 9
Attention to detail even at the back of Boathouse No 9


But the garden which made me actually laugh out loud, much to the surprise of the visitors around me, was ‘Serving Thyme in the Garden of Gallifrey’. I can see why it was a favourite of the visitors, you may not want it in your own garden but it was full of fun and theatre, which, after all is what Show Gardens are all about. But more to the point, who hasn’t watched Dr Who from behind the sofa?

I was never sure if K9 wasn't as scary as the Daleks
I was never sure if K9 wasn’t as scary as the Daleks







Malvern Spring Gardens – First Show Day

It was with some trepidation that I made my way to the show ground today. Had my plants survived the storms through the night and what would people think of the border?

Well I needn’t have worried, my plants were still looking lovely and the people who came to the show today were so positive. Also it was really nice to meet Chris Beardshaw, who came to see the Painting with Plants Gallery between filming for Gardeners World.

I am looking forward to the rest of the show and hopefully taking some time out to have a proper look around the show.

Malvern Show

The Plants For Malvern Show

The brief for Malvern Spring Show is to depict a painting, photograph, or view in plants.

So, having decided on the Painting, “The Equatorial Jungle” by Henri Rousseau, and the type of plants, (shade lovers), I also thought it would be good to use as many British native plants as possible.

That was the plan, but to quote Robert Burns,

“ The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men, Gang aft a-gley”

The batteries on my Chrystal Ball were obviously flat and I failed to foresee that this would be a very strange Stop-Start Spring.

The Aquilegias I had planned for the border flowered weeks ago (and very pretty they were too). Substitutes have proven to be elusive, however, I have discovered three plants in my own garden. They are the progeny of a rather delicate pink columbine, but I fear given the promiscuous nature of Aquilegia they may not take after their mother.


Only time will tell and I am fast running out of that at present.

My Chrystal Ball also failed point out that one of the nurseries would let me down at the last minute. Not a huge problem in itself, and all those plants, bar one, have now been sourced from other suppliers. The problem is when you look at the painting not having a white foxglove is a bit of an issue!

My plants are in various locations around the County, some I am growing here in the Teme-Valley. The rest are at Wychbold and Pershore, so happily everything has been sourced from Worcestershire. It has become a real home grown effort and I am hugely grateful to my local suppliers for their help and advice.


Vergette Gardens at Malvern Spring Show

Back in November 2011, while attending an RHS seminar, I met the Show organisers from Malvern Show and they asked if I would be interested in their new project called “Painting with Plants”.

“Painting with Plants” is new to the Malvern Spring Show. The idea behind it is to provide 10 borders, each measuring two square meters, in which to represent a painting, photograph or local landscape. Each of the 10 borders will be raising the profile of a chosen charity, with three of the borders being awarded a £1000 prize for their charity.

Choosing the charities for me was easy, Thrive and Perennial.

Choosing which painting was slightly more difficult. I looked at paintings by Van Gough, Monet and Cezanne, but none of them were quite right. Then I remembered a painting by Henri Rousseau painted in 1891 called by some “Surprise!” and others “Tiger in a Tropical Storm (Surprised!)”. Although I loved this painting for the movement and atmosphere, to be absolutely honest I couldn’t quite see how to represent the tiger in plants!

After several days of trawling the internet and scouring the pages of art books in the library I finally decided on another painting by Henri Rousseau, “The Equatorial Jungle”.

                                                                                      Image from From Wikipedia

The plants in Rousseau’s painting seem to be inspired by his visits to the Botanical Gardens in Paris, and while some of them are quite recognisable others are pure fantasy.

So what came next was to think of the best way to recreate the painting with plants that would give that same jungle feel at a show in May.

I want to link the planting with the way Thrive and Perennial help those people who find themselves in difficult situations. So thinking in terms of gardens, most people will struggle to find plants for a shady situation, so that is where I decided to start my search. Most of the plants I am going to use are those that will tolerate theses shady places. I hope to link the painting, the planting and the work the charities do, to achieve a lush leafy border.